Diverse Author Spotlight is a post series here on Book Deviant where I’ll introduce and interview a marginalized author! You can read the first three on this page!
**Apologies that this is late! School got in the way, but don’t worry, I’ll try and keep this blog going. Despite this being posted in November, Suzanne is still the October featured author, and there will still (hopefully) be a November featured author.
Suzanne ‘Xan’ van Rooyen is a genderqueer, tattooed storyteller from South Africa currently living in Finland where the heavy metal is soothing and the cold, dark forests are inspiring. Even with a Master’s degree in music, Xan prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When she grows up, she wants to be an elf – until then, she spends her time (when not writing) climbing, buying far too many books, and entertaining her shiba inu, Lego.
Suzanne’s pronouns are they/them or she/her.
Despite this post being slightly late, I’m still excited to present Suzanne van Rooyen to this blog and all of it’s readers. I hope y’all enjoy our conversation! In usual fashion, I will be bolded as AC and Suzanne will be SR.
AC: Hi Suzanne! Thank you so much for being patient and willing to be interviewed for this blog series. Let’s start off with a simple question: can you tell us more about yourself and your writing?
SR: Sure! I grew up in South Africa but moved first to Australia and then to Finland as a young twenty-something to study. I’d been writing all my life as a hobby, inspired probably by the fact that books were always a huge part of my life thanks mostly to my mom who instilled a love for reading in me as a child. Once I was in Finland and doing my masters, I started taking writing a bit more seriously and it was from a Finnish friend I learned about NaNoWriMo. The first year I attempted it was my first time trying to write a full length novel. I didn’t hit 50k that year, but the novel I started went on to become my first published novel! Once that happened, I realized writing was something I wanted to pursue more seriously and I started learn more about both the craft and business of being an author. Now, I still have a day job but write on the side, writing mostly young adult novels in speculative genres.
AC: Wow, that sounds amazing! Do you think you’re writing is influenced at all by your experience in these different countries?
SR: Probably, if in no other way that travelling and living in different places has allowed me to meet a lot of different people from different walks of life. It’s also allowed me to experience drastically different environments like the intense heat of a Western Australian summer versus the dark, snow, and cold of a Finnish winter. Having first hand experience of these things definitely makes imagining and writing different settings a lot easier and hopefully more authentic for the reader since I always try to draw from the things I’ve lived through myself.
AC: Besides the places you’ve lived, what else has influenced your writing?
SR: It’s difficult to pin-point any one thing. Of course the books I read have influenced my writing. Whenever I read a particularly good novel or short story, I feel inspired and might want to emulate something from the story, be it the way the author developed the characters, the source of conflict, the pacing or way the plot unraveled. I always try to learn from the books I’ve enjoyed the most. The same goes for TV shows and movies. I try to pay attention to what the writers are doing and why it works – or sometimes, doesn’t work. But art and music influence me just as much and are often sources of inspiration.
AC: Do you think that identifying as genderqueer has affected your writing at all? What does it mean to you to be a genderqueer writer, if anything?
SR: Hm, tricky question. I’m not sure. I only recently (like within the last 5 years or so) realized who I was had a label and that I could call myself genderqueer. Even now though, I’m not completely comfortable with that label, but I think it’s the most fitting one for my identity at the moment. As for my identity influencing my writing, well… I want to write stories to help kids who might be like I was: confused, frustrated, angry, sad, and feeling totally alone with an identity that doesn’t fit the gender binary. I want enby kids to be able to see themselves in books, and to find positive representation of all gender identities. So, as a genderqueer writer I do aim to write characters like me, I want to challenge stereotypes and help add to LGBT+ literature stories which show the diversity and intersectionality of the genderqueer experience. I do feel a responsibility here, but I also take immense pleasure and pride in writing the stories I needed and never had as a kid.
AC: What about speculative fiction drew you into writing the genre, if anything?
SR: It’s the genre I’ve always gravitated towards as a reader. I grew up reading fantasy and always loved the endless possibilities in the genre, the fact that the scope of stories was only limited by the writer’s imagination. That’s probably why as a writer, I fell for this genre too. I love the freedom it gives and how spec fic really allows me to explore anything and everything circumventing and even subverting elements of the real world.
AC: What’s your favorite part about being a writer? Least favorite?
SR: I love how being a writer allows me to let my imagination run wild, how it lets me nurture and indulge my inner child by exploring any and all ‘what ifs’. I also love how writing isn’t just a form of creativity for me but also a catharsis, a method to work through and figure out issues in my life vicariously through my characters. The thing I enjoy least about writing is how isolating it can be and the huge amounts of self-doubt, the constant worrying about whether a story is original enough and whether my writing is good enough. Dealing with rejection from external sources is tough but something I’ve come to accept as a part of this industry; trying not to self-reject and be overly self-critical is something I’m still working on.
AC: And as my traditional ending question for author interviews: what are three (or more!) books/authors that you’d like to recommend to readers?
SR: Only three!?!? But I have so many!! One of my all time favourite series has to be the Broken Earth trilogy by N. K. Jemisin. It’s brilliant, just read it! Then I have to recommend the Tensorate series by JY Yang, a series of novellas that are absolutely fabulous and written by a non-binary author. And lastly, this year I started reading and fell in love with the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, whose other series are just as good, but the Murderbot novellas are excellent sci-fi fare and surprisingly funny too. I could really go on… Do I have to stop at three???
AC: Not if you don’t want too!!
SR: Hahahaha – it would be a very long list then indeed! Perhaps I could tack on some honourable mentions?
The Lamb will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy
The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace
Everything by Anna-Marie McLemore
Everything by Seanan McGuire
Everything by Cat Hellisen
AC: I haven’t read all of these, but I certainly agree for those that I have! Thank you so much for doing this interview Suzanne, it was a pleasure to chat with you!!
SR: And it was awesome chatting with you! Thank you so much for hosting me.
Thanks for stopping by!
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